The Spring Garden 2015

It’s been ages since I sat down to write on my blog….far too long! But I am here now…so much to talk about….this is the second year I’ve grown the tomatoes from seed (last years’s crop). 4 different varieties – 40 plants and we’ll let some of the self sown ones grow too, so if all goes well we’ll have another freezer full of tomato puree for next year.

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The purple peach tree that I grew from seed last year is about 50cm tall with 4 main branches, it’s growing so fast you can almost see it growing. Over winter we planted a red currant, some raspberries (have fruit on them!), 2 blueberries and replenished our strawberry crop. I wish we had room to plant more berries but I’m hoping we’ll get enough to eat and may be freeze some too? How cool would that be? A Cox’s Orange Pippen, a Snowapple and a Villa Franca lemon also found there way into our garden over winter.

I bought a pair of kiwi fruit at the supermarket a while ago (going cheap – $6 for both!); they looked a bit sad but hey you can’t go wrong for $6. We potted them up, fed them and off they went like a rocket; we needed a structure to grow them on – they can be a very vigorous plant and need lots of support and space – Neil used the old trampoline frame to build a structure and one day the kiwi fruits (and a grape vine) will create another feature in the garden.  I’ve seen photos of kiwi vines growing over trellises – beautiful foliage, golden fruit hanging down, that’s what I want to see here!

Winter was a busy time in the garden, we decided to move the rose bed (14 old roses) to a more suitable part of the garden – they were in a prime vegetable growing position. To do this Neil built 2 new raised garden beds – one for the roses and a new vegetable garden. Moving the roses was not fun, we certainly hacked into them but you know what, we didn’t lose a single plant! Just how tough are roses? Very tough! We replenished our paths with a thick layer of mulch – local wood chips from the crew who trim the street trees – this really brightened up the garden.

The summer garden is still a way off, the next peak above ground planting period (growing by the moon) comes up around the 13th Novemeber; so it will be all hands on deck to plant zucchini, tomatoes, eggplants, okra, fennel, lettuce, silver-beet, spinach, capsicums, beans, cucumbers, pumpkin and probably heaps more! I’m going to try some new crops this summer – okra, spaghetti squash (pumpkin) and snake beans, it’s always nice to have some unusual plants growing; okra plants look really interesting and I would love to eat a truly fresh one for once. I hadn’t even seen a spaghetti squash until last summer and was blown away by them! They are not cheap to buy so why not try and grow them – it’s just a pumpkin after all – 4 of the 6 seeds I planted have taken and I gave the rest away…. lots of spaghetti squash this year!

Our young avocado tree produced 2 wonderful fruits earlier this year and has been absolutely covered in flowers, thousands of them; we were wondering how many flowers would produce fruit, well we are delighted to announce some babies are forming…

We planted another lot of root crops last weekend – beets, celeriac, carrots and parsnips; the last month’s root crops are up but the cat decided to have a bit of a dig and damaged some of them, so we’ve put a net over the bed to stop all manner of pests.

Had to pull up the shallot crop a bit early I think, but they were going to seed and had to be lifted, hope they are OK, they’re drying on the deck and will be ready to hang in a week or so. The garlic crop is looking good; we planted a smaller crop than usual so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that they are robust plants.

I’m loving my herbs – got some beauties – tarragon, fennel, parsley, coriander, various mints, sage, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, basil, lemon grass, lavender and chives (the garlic chives are awesome). Phoebe makes the most beautiful omelettes with next door’s free range eggs, lots of fresh herbs and cheese – simple and delicious. Is horseradish a herb? This crop will yield more horseradish than we will ever use….I make horseradish sauce and use it fresh but…

Anyway enough rambling on for one blog…till next time….

 

 

“Change in the weather”

“Change in the weather…change in the weather …somethings happening here..”

It’s the Easter holiday break and the Bellarine Peninsula is busy busy busy with holiday makers enjoying the last of the warm weather. We’ve been busy in the garden pulling up the summer crops to prepare for the autumn and winter vegetables. The pumpkin and zucchini plants look horrible covered in mould and aphids but are still producing so we’ll wait a bit longer to pull them up (I’d like to get rid of them to make the garden look nicer). I haven’t sprayed the aphids (I would have used pyrethrum and soap) as there are a few aphid eating ladybirds around and I definitely don’t want to harm them. There are a few tomato plants still producing but it won’t be long until they come out too. We planted radish (little pink ones and the large daikon), 3 types of spinach, carrot, mixed heritage lettuce, beetroot, turnip, parsnip and purple broccoli seed and kale, cauliflower, romanescu broccoli, wombok, parsley, lettuce (cos) seedlings and flowers as companion plants. It’s not the best time of year for garden beauty, the sunflowers and hollyhocks look ragged and I’d love to pull them out but I want to collect some seeds, so I have to be patient and let nature take its course. The citrus trees are looking really good, loads of lemon, oranges, cumquats, limes and even some mandarines (our first ones) and 2 baby grapefruit which is rather exciting. Oh and we have our first 2 passionfruit on the vine, now that is very cool, I’ve tried to grow passionfruit unsuccessfully over the years and then Phoebe gave me a plant last year for my birthday and it’s taking over the citrus trellis! Neil built another trellis structure for the kiwi fruits (he used the metal poles from the old trampoline), so now we wait for them to grow – in my imagination I see the vines covering the trellis with beautiful golden kiwi fruits hanging down. We used to grow an assortment of berries when we lived in the bush but I didn’t think we had enough room here however the berry scandal (fancy getting hepatitis from eating frozen berries!) prompted me to grow some blueberries. It’s hard to make a choice there are so many varieties,  I chose a Denise and a Northland and they are growing just fine, my goal is to grow enough to eat and freeze – they are seriously good for you.

I’m still heavily into the paleo way of living and my cooking has changed so much! I’ve never really been into the whole chocolate Easter situation – as the usual chocolates are pretty ghastly – and so I’ve not had any trouble saying no thanks BUT I’ve been making a paleo style chocolate nut and fruit slice (using cocao and carob) and that is seriously hard to say no too (it’s still a treat and not to be eaten all the time). We’re eating our way through my ferments so I made another crock of kraut and some water kimchi this week – my kimchi e-book (The Kimchi Cookbook by Lauryn Chun) boasts 60 different recipes which I hope to explore over the next few years – so much fun experimenting with fermentation.

I was wondering what to make for dinner tonight, I had some left over beef koftas and teemed them with a rich tomato and garden vegetable sauce and made some zucchini noodles with my spiraliser (even Pasta man likes the zucchini noodles) and all from the garden! All paleo, nutritious and super delicious!

I am also very pleased to say that at last I can make a decent mayonnaise (I make a fermented one that is light, smooth and delicious) – with my dutch heritage mayonnaise is very much a part of our eating culture but it’s impossible to buy mayonnaise that is chemical or “bad oil” free so I’m pretty happy with my new mayo making skill. As a matter of fact I have to make some right now…..

 

 

The summer garden

Well Xmas and New Year (seasons greetings to you all) have come and gone since my last blog (how time flies) and the garden is just starting to produce enough to eat. We’re harvesting zucchini, tomatoes (early ones only), purple king beans, radish, green bull chillies, beetroot, assorted greens and herbs of course! The eggplants are just starting to fruit – hopefully we’ll be inundated with tomatoes, zucchinis and eggplants in a few weeks time. I’m not having much luck with florence fennel, the seed just doesn’t seem to strike well, anyway I’ve just planted another lot (organic local seeds) so let’s hope they take off. The zucchinis are an organic italian variety, they’re so pretty and seem to grow long before filling out – a lovely striped fruit too. I’m hoping the golden beets grow as big as the ones I bought from Magic Meadow (organic farm produce) and can’t wait to be able to pick our own carrots too.

The plums pictured above come from a friend whose plum tree was getting attacked by birds – she  had to pick them before they had fully ripened – I’m in the process of making plum sauce and jam. I tried one of our apricots today, it was nearly ripe and probably fine for cooking, might have to pick some tomorrow. We’ve netted the apricot and mulberry trees (as well as some of the tomatoes) or we would have lost the lot to birds. I don’t mind sharing some produce but the birds indiscriminately peck at everything in sight and don’t eat the ones that drop on the ground! What a waste!

We usually buy about a dozen advanced tomato plants, the rest of the crop being the self sown varieties that pop up all over the garden. This year we only bought two tomato plants (the ones that are producing now) and the rest we’ve grown from seed collected from two sources – a huge Italian variety brought over from the “old country” years ago and an Italian small green striped heirloom tomato. It was fun growing our main tomato crop from seed and we ended up planting about 10 of each variety  plus kept a crop of self sown tomatoes too, so we probably have about 40 tomatoes growing! We weren’t going to plant so many this year!

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A few years back I rescued a small half dead San Pedro cactus from our daughter’s share house (it was strewn in the garden amongst a tangle of weeds) and it certainly rewarded us this year with about thirty blossoms all in different stages of development. On Xmas day 7 blooms opened at once – absolutely amazing!

The weather has been crazy lately – too much wind and scorching heat – I hate seeing the garden being blown about like that – but at least it’s raining tonight!

Until my next blog…cheers Lemmie

Winter flowers and vegetables

It’s always nice to have flowers in the garden but especially at this time of the year; the maroon pansies haven’t stopped flowering for months and the vibrantly coloured cinerarias are in full bloom. There’s also camellias, grevillias, some roses, wattles and the lovely ornamental quince blossoms.

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The broad beans are looking good, they have a long growing season and we won’t be eating them for a while yet, the celery can be seen poking out of the milk cartons – they don’t seem to mind the cool weather. I’m still picking beetroots and a variety of greens and not a lot else. We’ve been resting and building up the main garden beds, preparing them for the growing season, thankfully we live in a temperate zone and can grow some food all year round. The garlic, shallots, purple cabbages and romanesco broccoli plants are slowly growing, I bet they’ll take off when the weather warms up a bit. There is so much parsley growing – I really should use it more – I put it in everything already – so versatile and good for us too! Until next we meet…..

Winter in the garden

Despite the cold and windy weather some parts of the garden are thriving including thistles and oxalis (or sour sob – impossible to get rid of – the act of pulling them actually promotes their bulb growth). I’ve posted some photos of  feature plants like the blood lilly leaves, red devil featured above, bird’s nest fern, cycad and vegetable garden shots.  There’s only 1 little purple cabbage left until the next crop grows, wish I had planted a few more, so yummy, romanesco broccoli is on the menu tonight and there’s plenty of greens for salads or cooked greens, a few beetroots, lots of herbs and that’s it for eating from the garden.The potatoes are gone, having to buy spuds again (drats) but there’s still a few shallots, going to seed garlic, pumpkins and frozen goods (tomatoes & grated zucchini)! The latest celery plants are looking OK, this weekend we’ll place 1Lt milk cartons over them to protect them and help to be crisp and tender.

The kumquat is finally starting to grow over the trellis top but the lemon and grapefruit seem frozen in time (planted at the same time), hopefully they’re growing underground and will put on new top growth when the weather warms up a bit. Lemons and limes are in abundance, what a cool problem to have, I’ll make a few more jars of preserved lime/lemons – so versatile and add a spark to most dishes – give some away and make some juice ice blocks.

Pasta man rejuvenated the worm farm (by adding some air vents – drainage tubes – and layers of nice fresh mulch) = happy worms and we’ve decided to rest 2 vacant garden beds for replanting in a month or two, it’s just too cold to plant right now. The other night we watched an old DVD on permaculture, it was interesting to see how our gardening practices have evolved over the years, I like the idea of permaculture and tried to live that way for a few years, it was fun having chooks, pigs, fish, an orchard and large vegetable garden, but now we are on a suburban block and our only animals are worms, insects and the odd amphibian and that is enough for us! Sometimes I’m tempted to have a few chickens again (what a delight to eat fresh eggs) but our next door neighbours produce the most beautiful organic eggs and I just pop over and buy some, how easy is that? Until next time…..

The autumn garden

Well I am finally back onto the computer and my blog, life seemed to get in the way for the last few weeks. So what’s happening in the garden? The only summer crop left are the chillies, everything else is over and out. There is however new life in the garden, the garlic and shallots are showing their new growth, the first crops of broad beans and peas are about 3cm tall and the next plantings are yet to show themselves (we are tending to plant small crops over several plantings so we don’t get too many at once). There are several varieties of spinach growing and a whole patch of self sown ones  too, the silver beet and kale are looking good, I’m looking forward to making spinach, potato and cheese pies especially. I love all greens and if we could only grow one crop it would be a green crop of some sort (my favourites are spinach and rocket). We usually always have staples of lettuce, rocket, herbs, beet root and carrots growing but we are having to buy carrots for now until the next crop is ready (we use a lot of carrots especially in the juicer). The miniature purple cabbages and brussels sprouts were infested with aphids so I sprayed them with an organic spray otherwise we would have lost them I think, I’ll have to check them again to see if they need another spray. I was hoping that some natural aphid predators would do their job but alas that didn’t happen. The broccoli plants in another area of the garden have no aphids on them at all, hooray!

I didn’t realise there were so many oranges on the Washington navel as they blended into the deep green foliage but now they are changing colour they stand out more. The younger blood orange hasn’t got any fruit at all which is disappointing but actually good for the tree to help it develop more before putting it’s energy into fruit. The flower seedlings I planted are growing well, the pansies are flowering but the cinerarias and hollyhocks still have some growing to do before they flower. I’ve been admiring the cosmos flowers in gardens on my walk to work, think I may have to get some of them soon. The pressure is off me to cook so much now as the produce has nearly come to a standstill but there are still things like rhubarb, citrus and beetroot to play with. I used to give the beetroot tops to the worm farm but have been saving them to use in pasta sauces and for a lovely filling for omelettes.

 

I hope to do a bit of weeding tomorrow and maybe feed the young seedlings with some seaweed emulsion to help them along. We are so lucky with the mild weather lately, we may as well enjoy it while it lasts.

The ever changing garden

Our garden is just about full so when I find a plant that I “have to have” finding a home for it can be challenging, luckily there are always plants that die, aren’t thriving or reach the end of their cycle, so we can usually find room for the new arrival. I can be ruthless when it comes to pruning or culling a plant, when space is limited you have to be.

I was disappointed when our curry leaf tree died last year and missed being able to pick the wonderfully fragrant leaves for cooking and so I bought a new curry leaf tree and had planted it and then a few days later I noticed some plants growing where the old curry leaf tree had been. To my amazement there were 7 new curry leaf trees growing all clumped together and looking strong and healthy. I thought they may be seedlings but when I dug them up they were growing from the old tree’s roots, amazing, I have popped them into some pots and hopefully we will have a few curry leaf trees to give away. The peas and spinach are up and I planted the first 3 rows of broad beans today. There are self sown coriander, rocket plants, lettuces and marigolds popping up all over the garden including the paths, I transplanted a few into the beds. We’ll have to plant the garlic and shallots before the shortest day and when the moon is right for planting root crops. I am still picking the last of the tomatoes, zucchinis, eggplants and chillies, but I think by this weekend they will all be gone. This last summer and autumn we’ve had the best vegetable garden produce so far on this property, so many thanks to mother nature for providing such a bounty.